Inside Nuclear South Asia

Inside Nuclear South Asia

Inside Nuclear South Asia

Inside Nuclear South Asia


Nuclear-armed adversaries India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their creation as sovereign states in 1947. They went to the brink of a fourth in 2001 following an attack on the Indian parliament, which the Indian government blamed on the Pakistan-backed Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist organizations. Despite some attempts at rapprochement in the intervening years, a new standoff between the two countries was precipitated when India accused Lashkar-e-Taiba of being behind the Mumbai attacks late last year.

The relentlessness of the confrontations between these two nations makes Inside Nuclear South Asia a must read for anyone wishing to gain a thorough understanding of the spread of nuclear weapons in South Asia and the potential consequences of nuclear proliferation on the subcontinent.

The book begins with an analysis of the factors that led to India's decision to cross the nuclear threshold in 1998, with Pakistan close behind: factors such as the broad political support for a nuclear weapons program within India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the intense rivalry between the two countries, the normative and prestige factors that influenced their behaviors, and ultimately the perceived threat to their respective national security.

The second half of the book analyzes the consequences of nuclear proliferation on the subcontinent. These chapters show that the presence of nuclear weapons in South Asia has increased the frequency and propensity of low-level violence, further destabilizing the region. Additionally, nuclear weapons in India and Pakistan have led to serious political changes that also challenge the ability of the two states to produce stable nuclear détente. Thus, this book provides both new insights into the domestic politics behind specific nuclear policy choices in South Asia, a critique of narrow realist views of nuclear proliferation, and the dangers of nuclear proliferation in South Asia.


There is an old saying in Washington that “politics ends at the water's edge.” The sentiment behind this aphorism—that foreign policy and security policy should be bipartisan—has always been more of an ambition than a reality. But the saying is certainly accurate when describing both popular and scholarly knowledge of other countries' foreign and defense policy: our understanding of domestic politics too often ends at the water's edge. Policy makers and scholars find it easy to understand how conflicting domestic political interests and bureaucratic infighting can influence major foreign policy decisions—even decisions involving crucial national security issues like nuclear weapons policies—in their own countries. American analysts, for example, find it quite natural to focus on differences between Democratic and Republican administrations, and their ability to control shifting majorities in Congress, when examining support for national missile defense programs or to examine differences between the position of the secretary of state and the secretary of defense, and who has the president's ear, when explaining the U.S. stance in an international arms control negotiation. Yet when these same analysts focus on similar national security issues in other countries, they too often simply assume that decisions are made by a unitary rational actor and that objective national security interests, not competing domestic political parties or parochial bureaucratic interests, are the key determinant of policy choice. Studies of nuclear weapons proliferation are particularly vulnerable to this kind of analytic bias. Sensitive policy decisions inside countries seeking to develop nuclear weapons are typically made in a highly secretive manner within tightly compartmentalized government decision-making bodies.

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